‘Facing Yesterday’ – A Poem by Anu Elizabeth Roche.

Yesterday,

my little girl

turned fifteen.

She felt her blood

soak her clothes,

and cried out to her mother,

fearing she would die.

Only yesterday, the women who

told her she was now

a woman, taught her to call

her bleeding blossoming

fertile body,

unclean.

Only  yesterday she realised

that her body had a mind of its own.

That she couldn’t always be

in control,

its needs were not always

hers to dictate.

Her body had a memory

of its own. The butterfly-soft touch

of a hand dusted with hair;

down her throat,

up her arm,

fingering the curve

of her hips,

tracing crevices she didn’t even  realise

existed.

And the words he murmered

in the dips of her ear.

Words that possessed wings,

words that flew past her reach

and beyond

before she could ever hope

to catch them.

Only  yesterday her body proved

that it could fathom things

she couldn’t even

begin to  understand.

She had begun to understand

her fear for soft white pillows

and the swift searing burn

that branded her thighs

the moment she unpeeled a banana

and marvelled at its length.

Only yesterday I saw her

cradle her

soft pliant body in her arms,

like it was a vase she so desparately

wanted to break.

Like she wished it did not exist.

Like she wished it wasn’t hers.

It wasn’t hers.

Not anymore.

She was a stranger

to what it had known

all along.

She would  be a stranger

to her tomorrow.

A stranger to a future

that didn’t have his  roving hands

branded on every page.

Beloved child,

that yesterday is yours;

it isn’t you.

Your body existed

before you were born,

those hands are yours,

those hips are yours,

this body is yours.

My womb had known it

for what it was,

and rejoiced at the moment a desert

experienced its first breath of life.

Your path will be fraught

with pain.

You will hate every hand

that reaches out to you,

but only less

than you will hate

your own.

That yesterday

is not your today.

It cannot forever remain

your tomorrow.

It can haunt you only so long.

Face it for what it is,

Leave your spittle

on its face,

Leave it where it deserves to be left,

in  the carcasses

of a dying memory.

I cannot tell you this.

I don’t

have the right.

Only your pain can

push you  through,

only your anger —

at him,  at me, at yourself,

at the world —

can bring you there.

But I will damn myself

if I ever

Force you to let it go.

No way, darling.

Not without a fight.

And on that one day

when you will  dare

to look into your mirror,

and find a woman

who loves her body

and has claimed it

for her own,

gazing back –

I will know

that we

have won.